A consideration to promote six Hollister firefighters brought to light how the city is operating the department with about $1.6 million in overtime costs.
The eye-popping overtime figure was disclosed before the council in a 3-2 vote approved a change in job classifications for six positions in the department. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilman Rolan Resendiz dissented on the item, with council members Carol Lenoir, Marty Richman and Honor Spencer in support.
Much of the conversation prior to the approval, meanwhile, centered on the overtime figure. Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo emphasized that the job classification change, essentially promoting six employees, would actually reduce the overtime figure by about a half-million dollars while the council would consider whether to hire additional firefighters at a later date.
The fire department’s total budget for 2018-19 is about $7.5 million, according to city budget documents.
“That’s an enormous amount of overtime,” Richman said during the discussion.
Velazquez pointed to the city’s contracts for fire services with San Juan Bautista and the county. The mayor made the case that those deals leave a “burden” on Hollister, which he argued is subsidizing the Mission City and county.
After his statements, Councilwoman Carol Lenoir accused the mayor of getting off topic from the agenda and potentially violating the state’s open meetings law because a discussion about those contracts was not on the agenda.
“We’re supposed to be meeting the law here,” Lenoir said, adding how the item on the agenda was job classifications. “That’s what we’re talking about tonight, not whether we’re subsidizing the county.”
The council Monday approved the change in classifications, which added three engineers and three captains to the staff. It is expected to result in internal promotions for existing firefighters with the agency, the chief told council members. The fire department is listed as having 32 total employees in city budget documents.
The change will mean the department has 12 fire captains and five engineers in total. Chief Bob Martin Del Campo estimated it would save $690,000 and cut the overtime budget from about $1.6 million to between $1 million and $1.1 million because there will be fewer holes for those spots in specified shifts.
Fire union president Vince Grewohl also spoke before the vote. He said the union supports the move but recommended the city add two additional firefighters as well. Councilwoman Honor Spencer motioned for the six positions noted on the agenda and two firefighter hires, too, but there was no other support for the two firefighters from other council members.